Reflections on the NFL “character” draft

As a college guy, I’ve never taken more than a passing interest in the NFL Draft. But last week I got a chance to work the draft in New York for CBS College Sports and really immersed myself in the process. It is fascinating and now I know why people are so locked into it.

And strictly from a college guy’s perspective I really believe that in this draft NFL teams, thanks to the shenanigans of guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick and Pac Man Jones, were looking at character more than ever. Four examples:

Dez Bryant, WR: The Oklahoma State star has Top 10 talent. There was simply no debate on that. But he fell all the way to No. 24 (Dallas) because other teams questioned his character (he lied to NCAA investigators about his involvement with Deion Sanders) and work ethic. He played only three games as a senior before being suspended by the NCAA. We can debate whether or not that was the proper punishment. The fact is Bryant’s reputation cost him millions of dollars.

Tim Tebow, QB: Denver not only traded up but gave up several draft picks in order to take Tebow at No.25.  Even Tebow fans will tell you that the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner will play very little quarterback for a least a year—if not longer. The wisdom of this pick won’t be known for several years but Broncos coach Josh McDaniels is willing to tie his future to Tebow, a guy who needs all kind of work on his mechanics before he is ready to be an every-down NFL quarterback. Why? Because he wants Tebow’s positive presence in the locker room. That puts a lot of pressure on Tebow to earn the respect of the grown men on that team. They don’t go for the rah-rah stuff. You’ve got to show them.

Jimmy Clausen, QB: I talked to a lot of guys who know the NFL and they all said the same thing. Clausen was the most NFL ready quarterback in the draft. He ran a pro offense at Notre Dame. So why did Clausen fall all the way to the No. 48 pick (Carolina)? A lot of teams who needed a young quarterback (like Minnesota) passed on him. There were all kinds of questions being raised about his ability to be a leader and a quality teammate. So what happened?

I said this at the time and I will say this again.

As my friend Spencer Tillman always reminds me, we live in a world of images and impressions. On April 22, 2006 Clausen and his “entourage” took a police escort to the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind. It was there that Clausen, a high school JUNIOR, stepped out of a white Hummer limousine and announced his intention to sign with Notre Dame the following February. It was a bad decision then and created a negative template about Clausen that he never shook. And once the negative template is set, people are then more willing to believe negative things about you even if they are not provable. Is that fair? Probably not. But it matters. Jimmy Clausen has first round talent but he’s going to get second round money.

Carlos Dunlap, DE: This was one of the great tragedies of college football in 2009. Florida’s Dunlap was easily a first-round talent but on the Monday before the SEC championship game was stopped by police in Gainesville, Fla. and arrested on alcohol-related charges. Florida is getting ready to play for the SEC title and a spot in the BCS championship game. Everything the team had worked so hard for in order to repeat as national champions was on the line. Coach Urban Meyer would never say it publicly nor would his teammates, but it was the worst kind of betrayal. Dunlap was suspended, Florida was not mentally ready to play the game and Alabama crushed the Gators. I think Alabama would have won the game anyway but you get the picture.

Here is the most telling thing about Carlos Dunlap. New England coach Bill Belichick and Meyer are pretty tight. Belichick comes to Gainesville at least once a year. Belichick had three picks in the second round and I believed he would take a couple of Gators.  I thought Belichick might take Dunlap because he knows how to handle players with issues (Randy Moss). But he passed on Dunlap with the No. 53 pick and took Florida’s other defensive end, Jermaine Cunningham. Cincinnati, the NFL’s home for problem children, then took Dunlap with the next pick.

If you are a college football player with aspirations of playing in the NFL, this year’s draft should be a cautionary tale. Ben Roethlisberger was not charged with a crime but will sit out perhaps as many as six games this season for stupid, self-centered behavior. This commissioner (Roger Goodell) ain’t fooling around.

You may be talented but if you engage in stupid and self-centered behavior it will cost you more than your reputation. It will cost you millions of dollars.

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157 comments Add your comment

Hardtruth Soldier

April 26th, 2010
3:46 pm

Enter your comments here

Tide Rising

April 26th, 2010
3:59 pm

I seem to remember the character issue really taking traction way back when Randy Moss came out. He was supposed to be a top 3-5 pick but because of his various issues he slid all the way to I think the 30th pick of the first round. Cost him millions and I for one thought he was easily the best player in college football. He finished 4th in the Heisman voting and if it weren’t for the fact that he was a problem child on a 2nd tier program like Marshall he should have won the Heisman. But since the Heisman is really more of a popularity contest there was no way Moss was going to win it. To me it was a shame because he was clearly the best player in college ball that year. I wish coaches could drill it a little more effectively into the heads of these kids that a dumb mistake in college could cost them millions.

The English Language

April 26th, 2010
4:00 pm

Atlanta Gator. Your use of me takes away any questions whether you’re a Florida graduate.

Tide Rising

April 26th, 2010
4:00 pm

Atlanta gator,

Great to see you back in our little blogging community!

Tide Rising

April 26th, 2010
4:12 pm

I also remember that Clausen was talking about winning 4 national championships that night at the college football hall of fame. I know he is just a kid but that kind of arrogance seems to stick with people. In the opener ND was getting pounded and shut out by Michigan and the commentator brought up Clausen’s comments about winning 4 ncs at ND. After referencing Clausen’s remarks the commentator said ” And reality sets in on young Mr. Clausen’ as the end of the whupping drew near. Never thought I would ever feel sorry for an ND player but I did at that point.

Beano Cook

April 26th, 2010
4:22 pm

Ron Powlus should have won 4 Heisman trophies.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
4:27 pm

“he will be a short yardage and role playing back in the pros.”

The Dwyer situation might indeed be that. Michael Turner was a role player behind LT. It will be awhile before this one plays out. A lot of “name” backs didn’t make it in the NFL.

Atlanta Gator

April 26th, 2010
4:32 pm

Gator running backs in the NFL? Rick Casares, Neal Anderson, John L. Williams, Nat Moore, Fred Taylor, Errict Rhett, Emmitt Smith . . . my apologies if I missed someone notable.

Atlanta Gator

April 26th, 2010
4:37 pm

English Language—-

Hello, my old friend. Please accept my apologies for my occasional typographical error. It’s nice to see that you’re putting in a guest appearance here on Tony Barnhart’s blog today. You are too often absent from these precincts.

Florida Quarterbacks in the NFL

April 26th, 2010
4:37 pm

Atlanta Gator, put an APB out for me.

Atlanta Gator

April 26th, 2010
4:39 pm

Tide Rising—-

It’s good to be seen. What’s the early Tuscaloosa betting line on this year’s Gators-Tide regular season game?

Atlanta Gator

April 26th, 2010
4:41 pm

“Florida Quarterbacks in the NFL”—-

APB, eh? Yes, the suspects were last seen in Chicago and apparently Denver.

Florida Quarterbacks in the NFL

April 26th, 2010
4:47 pm

Atlanta Gator, no 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s reference?

Larry munson

April 26th, 2010
4:54 pm

Joe Cox should of been drafted. he would of step on clausen or bradford, tebow or Mccoy with hobnob boot and broken their noses.

Atlanta Gator

April 26th, 2010
5:03 pm

Rick Casares is a 1950s reference; he was an 11-year stud for the Chicago Bears. The Miami Dolphins’ Nat Moore is a 1970s reference, but the biggest Gator back of the 1970s was probably Jimmy DuBose, who blew out his knee in his second year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was never the same after rehabbing it. Of course, Rhett and Taylor are 1990s Gator backs.

The 1960s Gator backs just didn’t make a big impact in the NFL, notwithstanding that several of them were NFL-worthy.

Atlanta Gator

April 26th, 2010
5:15 pm

BTW, you write as if notable NFL quarterbacks grow on trees. Afterall, other than Tarkenton and Bratkowski, how many notable NFL quarterbacks were UGA alumni?

Tide Rising

April 26th, 2010
5:24 pm

Atlanta Gator,

I did see the early betting line on Bama vs UF and I think it was 7. I would have thought we would be favored by 3-4 for home field and that would be it since to me the teams are basically equal.

One fascinating thing I did see was the initial odds of winning a national title. We were 3-1, Texas 5-1, OSU 7-1, and UF was way out there at 25-1. I was tempted to plunk a hundred down on the gators cause I figured they got as good a shot as us or anyone else of winning the national title. But then I got a hold of myself and said “what the hell am I thinking?” I can’t plunk down hard earned money for the gators to win the national title over us. Other than that it would seem like a pretty good bet as far as risk/reward goes.

Tide Rising

April 26th, 2010
5:28 pm

Our notables would be Bart Starr ( 2 super bowls), Joe Willie Namath(1), and Kenny Stabler(1). What I like about our super bowl winning qbs is that 2 of them were outlaw hellraiser types in Namath and Stabler. And Namath guaranteeing a win by the new AFC over the older, established NFC really pushed the interest in the NFL at a time when nfc dominance was a given. I almost forgot Brodie Croyle but I’m not really sure Brodie qualifies to be mentioned in the same breath as the other 3. Not putting down Brodie. Just sayin….

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
5:31 pm

Atlanta Gator – If we rephrase that as “how many UGA quarterbacks were NFL alumni,” we get another hit: Andy Johnson. Patriots’ RB of the Decade for the ’70s.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
5:32 pm

Tide Rising – Oh hell yeah! I moved to Oakland the year The Snake took over from Lamonica.

Atlanta Gator

April 26th, 2010
5:33 pm

TR—-

Bama over Florida by 7 points sounds about right. Three to 4 straight up, another 3 to 4 for home field advantage. The Gators will have plenty of talent, but a lot of it is very young talent. I expect the Gators to go 10-2 (6-2 SEC) and play a competitive SEC championship game. The Gators win the East by default; Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee are not complete enough to go 8-0 or 7-1 in the SEC. Somebody other than the Tide will get the Gators this season, though. LSU, maybe UGA, maybe USC.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
5:37 pm

Tide Rising – You have to give Zeke Bratkoswski an assist on one of the NFL Championships. He led the Pack to the 1965 Western Div. championship when Starr got injured in the game.

Atlanta Gator

April 26th, 2010
5:39 pm

Delbert D.—-

You know your Dawgs.

Dawgforlife

April 26th, 2010
5:43 pm

As a matter of fact Ramble on, UGA is expected to have two picks taken in the top 10 next year…Green and Boling…so, I guess they will have some more 1st round picks after all

Baddog

April 26th, 2010
5:53 pm

Football is still a team game. Teams are not going to spend top picks and big money on players prone to suspention and or Jail time.

Tide Rising

April 26th, 2010
5:56 pm

Atlanta gator,

Well, looks like we’re on the same line of thinking. I think 1 or 2 of our opponents can get us this year. Either you guys or Penn State or South Carolina. Carolina is our big trap game so believe it or not they, along with the gators, give me the most worry. LSU will be tough as well as AU and Ark. All 3 of those teams can beat us also but I think the 3 toughest will be UF, Penn St. and USCeast.

I think you guys win the east by default over Georgia because the dogs are breaking in a freshman qb. They could surprise though with a great O-line though as we did in 2008. A great O-line can control the game and anchor a whole team. Be interesting to see if S. Carolina with 19 starters finally makes a real legitimate run or if its just another year of wait till next year. If they are ever gonna do it this is their shot.

Tide Rising

April 26th, 2010
6:02 pm

Delbert D.,

I’ll give Zeke an assist but you got to tell me who in the heck is Andy Johnson? If he was the Pats rb of the decade in the 70s then I believe bama gets an assist. We get one because John Hannah, who during his era was regarded as the greatest O-lineman of the era, was paving the way for Andy Johnson. Then again neither of them won anything with the pats because we all remember just how bad NE was during the 70s.

Napoleon

April 26th, 2010
6:05 pm

I am a Dawgs fan, but Beast is right, don’t compare Joe Cox to Brantley. Don’t compare Joe Cox to any QB starting in the SEC. He (Cox) may be a real nice guy, but he had no business taking snaps as an SEC QB, let alone being a starting QB in the toughest division in all of football (yes I am including the professional ranks as well). That said, I do think the Gators will struggle this year in the beginning, which sadly kinda makes me happy, I just hope those struggles carry over to that wonderful weekend in Jacksonville. I went to school in JAX, and I have to say I didn’t dislike FLA fans until spending four years down there. GO DAWGS, but most importantly, GO SEC!

Glenn

April 26th, 2010
6:18 pm

Jonathan Dwyer will do quite well in Pittsburgh, thank you very much, and all of the “nay-sayers” will end up eating crow and realizing that his “slow” 40 time had more to do with an injury in shorts than playing with pads on against competition.

The so-called “failed drug test” comments are nothing but libelous drivel. Anyone who has an ounce of common sense, or human decency, would let this lunacy drop.

While Jonathan was picked much later than expected, and desired, he couldn’t have ended up with a better situation and better team. He’ll be seeing quality minutes and may end up being the starter before the end of the season. In fact, Jonathan may even end up rushing for more yards than K. Moreno this coming season, especially based on how he ended up last season.

Beast from the East

April 26th, 2010
6:37 pm

Napoleon, I feel ya. I didn’t dislike UGA fans until I moved to Atlanta. Growing up in Jax we lost to UGA most years and for the most part the UGA fans were pretty fun to hang out with. Being a Gator and living up here is like living behind enemy lines. The smarta$$ comments never stop. Guess I shouldn’t lump ‘em all in with the loudmotuhs, but sometimes it just gets under your skin. To be fair, 90% of them aren’t grads……just your typical rabid SEC fans.

...TEBOW will do well

April 26th, 2010
7:14 pm

Tebow may end up playing like another Steve Young.
Tampa Bay gave up on Young, then he goes to the 49′ers and takes Joe Montana’s job.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
7:41 pm

Tide Rising – Andy Johnson was the Georgia QB 1971-1973. Big dude, started as a soph. Ran more than he passed. He was pretty good for the Pats, more a fullback-type runner. He’s VP of the Geotgia Lettermen’s Club.

Jake

April 26th, 2010
7:41 pm

NFL took 40+ players from the SEC,, Not even a close race.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
7:43 pm

Tide Rising – I forgot to give props to Hog Hannah. Quite a bulldozer, he was.

thunderbull56

April 26th, 2010
8:07 pm

Notice where Bay Bay was picked? Does this mean Tech is now wide reciever U? Me, I’m just glad the mocking is over.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2010
8:23 pm

On the subject of character, Ryan Perrilloux signed with the Vikings.

Nesbitt for Heisman

April 26th, 2010
8:26 pm

Tony is right,

College Football is much better than the NFL

DAWG FANtom

April 26th, 2010
8:30 pm

I wonder how much it will cost Zack Mettenberger.

Dixie

April 26th, 2010
8:37 pm

if the NFL starts evaluating character then uga will never have another drafted player…..

itpdude

April 26th, 2010
9:54 pm

As per Tebow being a positive presence in the locker room: Pine Riders don’t get followers. First stringers can be leaders in football, but not pine riders. Especially young pine riders. An old vet backup QB tutoring a first string young QB? Influence. Rookie QB riding the pine? Nada.

Denver will put Tebow in the competition for 1st string and he has a very real shot, particularly by year two after the 1st stringers K runs out.

All this talk about “mechanics” and all that crap is waaaay overblown. Joe Montana didn’t have size and he patted the ball right before throwing. He had a medium delivery. His arm was average. And he was the best QB I’ve ever seen play. Tebow has size. Decent speed. Good tackle breaking ability. He has a HUGE heart. He is a hard worker. He will learn the playbook because of hard work (he’s probably average intelligence but is an over-achiever).

And the reality is that Tebow will not be out late and drinking and partying. He will be learning the playbook. And I truly believe he will start this year. Denver didn’t make him a 1st round pick to ride pine.

cloudy

April 26th, 2010
10:40 pm

I didn’t see Spurrier’s name listed as one of the Gator QB’s in the NFL. He threw a lot of wounded ducks but punted for a number of years for the niners. How many years did he play in the NFL- had to be 5 or more I think.

Dick Nixon

April 26th, 2010
10:41 pm

Where did my favorite Gaytor get drafted, Brandon “give me the evil eye,now” Spikes.

Dick Nixon

April 26th, 2010
10:45 pm

Maybe if Pyscho Myer and Tim Tearbow weren’t holding hands all the time and passing notes, some of the other Gaytors may have behaved. Remember, some children just need a little attention.

Reptiles Rule

April 26th, 2010
11:08 pm

What a “Dick”.

Golden Rules!

April 26th, 2010
11:45 pm

Dawg Sentenced for Life..ugump would of had a first round pick this year if Green was there. But you have to ask yourself, will Green lay it on the line this year for a RFr Qb who will struggle? Will he risk injuring himself knowing that this year will most likely be his last and at best, mediocre for the mutts? Does he face backlash from the NFL if he doesn’t produce?
IMHO that Green will have a noticeably down year, but it will not effect his first round draft status…although he may just very well turn into another Gibson.

Miles

April 27th, 2010
12:48 am

70% of the morons in the NFL will be broke within three yeras of leaving the NFL…Tebow will most certainly not fall into this category…congrats to Tebow and hats off to you Mr. Barnhart, i.e., great topic today!

Johnny DangerDawg

April 27th, 2010
2:03 am

Tony,
Colt McCoy doesn’t have “character” problems. So why did he get drafted so far behind Tebow (and behind Clausen)?

GEAUX BLACK & GOLD!

April 27th, 2010
2:09 am

I am literally sick to my stomach of all the Tim Tebow talk…….gosh, you guys find a decent player and WORSHIP him to no end. There was even a report on CNN about his parents! Hell, the guy even had a Super Bowl commercial before he was even drafted! He’s a great player, but the bias shown towards him is becoming a bit sickening. I’m sure the guys over at ESPN get down on their knees every night to pray to the God of Tebow! WOW!

DBCOOPER

April 27th, 2010
2:49 am

Tony ..What happened to Snead at Ole Miss? Why or better yet who would advise him to leave college after his junior year if he wasn’t going to be drafted. He was highly rated going into last year and had a lack-luster year. Why would he leave?

Hardtruth Soldier

April 27th, 2010
11:06 am

Hey Tebow will have a Job with ESPN in 4 Years, and ESPN will sell him as the next big thing on there college football Gameday. Let me tell you though if you mess up the team they have now, I’m done!